Saturday, February 06, 2016


by Sasha Uzunov

Mr Branko Miletic is an Australian-Croat journalist, often cited in the Australian media about Croatian affairs. He is also a long time observer of the Balkans.

Question 1. Have successive Croatian governments dropped the ball in winning the diplomatic war for influence in the southern Balkans, namely in Macedonia by allowing Serbia virtually a free hand to exert its influence? In the early 1990s Croatia was very active in pushing for Macedonia diplomatic recognition whilst Serbia was actively against it, even threatening Macedonia with invasion in the early 1990s until the Dayton Agreement of 1995. (see link).

Branko Miletic: Yes they have. Thanks to 2 reasons- one, is the need to fix the economy- regional politics takes a back seat to micro-economics....the second reason is the fact that the European Union keeps pushing this 'rapproachment' theory vis-a-vis Belgrade and now in Croatia for example you have a revitalised neo-Marxist pro-Belgrade Left made up mostly of unemployed actors, artists and poets ( whatever that means) trying to bring down a democratically elected government that is not to their taste. One wonders what the relatives and friends of all those Croatian soldiers, that died on the battlefields (along with surviving war veterans) in places like Vukovar think of all this.

Question 2. Are you concerned that there are leading public figures in Macedonia who claim to be pro NATO but strangely back the centre-right regime in Belgrade, Serbia which is anti-NATO?

For example Macedonian journalist Borjan Jovanovski says he is staunchly pro NATO but rarely if ever defends Croatia which is a NATO member from attacks by the Alexander Vucic regime in Belgrade and instead gives Belgrade a clean bill of health when it has human rights issues to deal with. (see link). Prime Minister Vucic years ago threatened to murder 100 Muslim Bosnians if one Bosnian Serb was killed. Since then Vucic has toned it down somewhat and is threatening Croatia with Russian missiles ! There has been silence from Mr Jovanovski and others over the recent official rehabilitation by the Serbian High Court of controversial World War II leader and ultra Serb nationalist Draza Mihailovic who was anti Macedonian, anti Croat, anti Albanian and anti Muslim as well as the recent the provocative nationalistic statements from Serbian foreign minister Ivica Dacic. (see link).

Some of these leading Macedonian figures even appear on Serbian television but never defend Croatia, which is both an EU and NATO member, whilst Serbia isn't.

Branko Miletic: I am concerned but not surprised. We have the same issues in Croatia. The politics of social engineering from the EU has given rise to this class of political zombies that seems to want to constantly gravitate to Belgrade. As for the EU, it is as if the politicians in Brussels miss dealing with only one Balkan country rather than say six or seven.

Question 3. You were quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper in 2012 as saying the Croats were the Muslims of 1970s Australia, as in unfairly being labelled as terrorists by the media because of clever Yugoslav secret police false flag terrorist operations, which amongst other things saw six local Croats set up and imprisoned for crimes they never committed. (see link).

Are you puzzled that there are leading figures in Macedonia who say they are pro NATO and pro West who still defend the old Yugoslavist "utopia?"

Branko Miltetic: No, sadly as I mentioned earlier, this is a 'wave' or a ' mini movement' that is sweeping the Balkans. Not sure where its coming from- the conspiracy theories range from George Soros to the EU all the way to the Illuminati ( no-I'm not kidding, this is what some people think) however I think its sadly the human condition of short term political memory loss and the 'grass was always greener in history' condition. There are also way to many people ( as in the West) that are obsessed with their childhood and 'how wonderful things were' - or should I say that's what they think anyway. This leads to this kind of myopia that takes hold of a loud and culturally influential class that then spends most of its unemployed time pushing this Red Revisionism...I hope, much like Ebola, it will pass with time.

On a positive note, Croatian Member of the European Parliament, Marijana Petir, has recently set up an informal Friends of Macedonian parliamentary group. see link 

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

COOL HAHN LUKE - EU Chief keeps calm over critics

Exclusive - Team Uzunov contacts European Union Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn
COOL HAHN LUKE - EU Chief keeps calm over critics
By Sasha Uzunov
The European Union's troubleshooter for Macedonia, Commissioner Johannes Hahn, has played it cool and calm by not buying into repeated attacks launched against him on social and mainstream media by a member of Macedonia's influential capital city cultural elite. 

Mr Borjan Jovanovski, a journalist, former Macedonian Presidential media advisor and self-proclaimed human rights activist, on his infamous Twitter account as well as his television appearances has constantly accused Commissioner Hahn of bias against the Opposition party, SDSM.

Mr Jovanovski belongs to a very powerful political dynasty in Macedonia established during the Yugoslav communist period by his father Meto, a prominent writer and head of foreign programming at Radio Television Skopje (RTS), the forerunner of Macedonian State Broadcaster. Mr Jovanovski has declared his support for the European Union and NATO but his endorsement of the regime in Serbia contradicts those positions.
Mr Hahn was sent to Macedonia by Brussels after massive demonstrations last year led by the Opposition SDSM against the Macedonian government led by then Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski over an alleged wiretapping and corruption scandal brought the country to its knees. Two government ministers and the head of Macedonian Intelligence, the Prime Minister's first cousin Saso Mijalkov, were forced to resign. Prime Minister Gruevski tendered his resignation nearly a month ago as part of an EU brokered agreement, known as the Przino Agreement, with a caretaker government led by a member from Mr Gruevski's party, VMRO-DPMNE, at the helm until new elections in April this year.
But those elections could be in doubt with the Opposition claiming that more time is needed to update the electoral rolls and check for false voters.
TEAM UZUNOV contacted Mr Hahn's office for a response to the constant attacks against him, asking if the EU Commissioner was aware of the contradictory views of Mr Jovanovski. The EU Chief has deftly downplayed the criticism.
TEAM UZUNOV: "Mr Hahn, you have a very difficult task in trying to resolve the political crisis in Macedonia and to make everyone happy !
"One of your staunchest critics in Macedonia is a journalist and “human rights activist” by the name of Borjan Jovanovski. Mr Jovanovski says he is pro-NATO, pro-EU, but has some contradictory views. For instance he has endorsed the regime in Serbia, [a non-EU member] which is anti-NATO and has a very bad human rights record. Mr Jovanovski has called for demonstrations against EU and NATO member Hungary but none against Serbia.
"Mr Hahn, are you concerned by Mr Jovanovski’s contradictory views, especially his endorsement of Serbia?"
Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for Commissioner Hahn:
"Commissioner Hahn has been very vocal regarding the expectations he has when it comes to constructive attitude of relevant stakeholders in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia."
Mr Jovanovski in a Twitter message, written in a mixture of Macedonian and Serbian, on October 17, 2015, said concerns about the lack of freedoms in Serbia were largely exaggerated.

Mr Jovanovski’s October 17, 2015 Twitter message, written in a mixture of Macedonian and some Serbian in which “concerns about some things being banned in Serbia are largely exaggerated."

 This is in direct contradiction to a 2015 Human Rights Watch report (see link) which condemns Serbia for no improvement in an already worse human rights record, as well as rising nationalism being fostered by the Serbian government of Prime Minister Alexander Vucic, who has also threatened to start an arms race against NATO member and neighbour and rival, Croatia. Serbia's Foreign Minister, Ivica Dacic, made a number of provocative and nasty statements about Macedonia's support for Kosovo's application to join UNESCO.
Belgrade has been strongly opposed to neighbouring state of Montenegro joining NATO, and via Republika Srpska, the Serb enclave in Bosnia-Hercegovina, has blocked Sarajevo's bid to join NATO.
Mr Jovanovski on Twitter has called for demonstrations against Hungarian diplomatic missions throughout Europe over the Budapest's proposal to build a wall to keep out refugees, but has remained silent over a controversial May 2015 ruling by the Serbian High Court which rehabilitated an ultra Serb nationalist leader Draza Mihailovic, a World War II leader whose followers collaborated with the Nazis, and who was anti-Macedonian, Albanian and Croat.
Oddly, Mr Jovanovski has deferentially referred to ultra nationalist Serb journalists as "poshtovane kolega " (respected colleagues).

Related stories -

(ROAD) SIGN OF THE TIMES - Serbia’s rocky relationship with Macedonia - see link

Saturday, January 16, 2016





Dr Chris Popov was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1953 to parents originating from the Lerin and Kostur regions of Macedonia. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Ph.D. in History. Dr Popov is active in Macedonian community circles in Melbourne and Australia.  He is retired and was employed for 24 years by the Federal Department of Immigration (Australia) before his retirement.

In the late 1980s he was president of the Australian Macedonian Progressive Society and from 1994 until 2001 he was president of the Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee and the Macedonian Human Rights Committee of Melbourne and Victoria. He has served on the Executive of the Australian Macedonian Human Rights Committee from 2008. He is a regular contributor to the Macedonian press and radio and on-line media both in Australia and Macedonia and has also contributed to the Melbourne Age, SBS Radio and Television (Australia).

1. Your thoughts on the political situation in Macedonia and the Balkans as a whole, especially the political crisis in Macedonia and human rights issues as a whole?

Dr Popov: The political crisis in Macedonia which erupted with full force at the beginning of  2015 is the result of the increasing dissatisfaction of Macedonians in general at the corruption, authoritarian tendencies and lack of economic opportunity which has marked the [outgoing] Gruevski government’s time in power , but also importantly that of its main rivals, the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia.

It is apparent that as the political crisis in Macedonia deepened in February 2015 when SDSM Leader Zoran Zaev began making public secretly recorded tapes  (“bombs”) which allegedly exposed ( if the current investigation headed by the newly-appointed special prosecutor  proves them to be authentic) high-level government corruption and involvement in illegal activities, both the EU and the USA increasingly began to support Zaev’s campaign for early elections. A reason for such support may have been the Gruevski government’s intention to participate in the “Turkish Stream” project and its refusal to impose sanctions on Russia, which was seen as a challenge to the West’s campaign to punish Russia and limit its influence in the Balkans. It may also be that the West reasoned that Zaev and the SDSM would be more “flexible” in solving the name issue, a view which Zaev’s statements have provided justification for. The EU, USA and the West in general see in the SDSM and Zaev a compliant partner willing to do their bidding in their attempts to “mould” Macedonia to suit their geopolitical, economic and security interests.

Gruevski’s agreement to early elections on 24 April 2016 and to resign as Premier 100 days before the holding of these elections - which he did on 15 January 2016 as per the Przino Agreement mediated under EU and US pressure in July 2015-is viewed by him as a necessary compromise designed to reduce European pressure and place the onus on Zaev to offer something in return. The release of the “bombs” has done little to shake Gruevski’s control of VMRO-DPMNE and the government (albeit transitional) in general. A viable solution to the current crisis is only possible if both sides abandon their maximalist demands and work together in the interests of society and the state as a whole, rather than narrow political interests. In order for that to happen all major  and minor Macedonian parties must rid themselves of the clientelism, corruption, illegal practices, media control and vote rigging which has marked their periods in power and commit to an open, democratic society in which the population’s basic human, economic, social and political rights are guaranteed and observed. They must go beyond merely declarative support for radical reform of Macedonian society.

Nevertheless, any new government that emerges after the elections will be led by either VMRO-DPMNE or the SDSM which, given their track record, may soon revert to past patterns of governance in the absence of sustained public pressure for greater democracy, equality and improvements in living standards. In short, a radical change in the political and moral culture of the country is needed which must be led by honest, progressive political actors untainted by their association with dubious practices of the past. It is only through internal, far-reaching party political reform and cultural change that any solution to the current crisis reached will contribute to the creation of a society where the interests of the people are safeguarded and promoted. While such change will take at least a generation to occur, a credible start on bringing it about must begin as soon as possible if Macedonians are to be given hope that a better and more just society is possible.

Such a process of change must of necessity begin with the Macedonian authorities initiating an independent, impartial investigation to determine whether the recordings are authentic (something they say they are committed to with the establishment of the Office of the Special Prosecutor)- while at the same time calling on Zaev to release all recordings in his possession and not just those that implicate the government in wrongdoing - and to sanction those who have broken the law and violated the rights of the people, irrespective of their party political affiliation, government position or social standing. Moreover, the European Union and other European institutions, Russia and the USA must refrain from trying to impose plans which serve their economic, political and strategic interests (although I realise that in today’s world this is a forlorn hope) and allow the Macedonian people and Macedonia’s institutions to craft a solution which has the broadest possible support across all sectors of Macedonian society.

Finally, all Macedonian political parties must recommit to a policy of defence of Macedonia’s name as part of any agreement on the country’s future and resist calls to change the official name of the country, Republic of Macedonia, as part of any deal to advance Macedonia’s accession to NATO and the EU. Progressive internal political, social, human rights  and economic reforms will count for nought if a name change which erodes Macedonian identity, culture and sovereignty is allowed to occur.

2. Tell us about any possible interference you may have encountered from the then Yugoslavia, Greece, Bulgaria etc. in your travels to various international human rights conferences held in Copenhagen, Moscow and Helsinki in the 1980s and 1990s? 

Dr Popov: My participation at these conferences was as part of the Australian Macedonian delegation which formed part of a wider delegation which included representatives of Macedonian human rights groups from Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, Canada, the then Czechoslovakia and the Republic of Macedonia. Our express goal was to lobby European governments in order to bring about the recognition and respect for the human rights of the Macedonian minorities which continue to live compactly in the Aegean Macedonia in Greece, Pirin Macedonia in Bulgaria and in Mala Prespa, Gora and other parts of Albania. In retrospect I must state that these delegations achieved considerable success in sensitising Europe to the gross violations of Macedonians’ human rights in the Balkans and assisted in creating the momentum for the formation of viable Macedonian human rights movements in Greece ( the EFA-Rainbow Party), Bulgaria (OMO-Ilinden –PIRIN) and Albania ( Macedonian Alliance for European  Integration, Prespa, Macedonian Alliance ) which to this day are still in existence and leading the struggle for respect for the human rights of the Macedonians in their respective states, in the face of official policies of denial and non-recognition by especially Greece and Bulgaria .


Open interference at these conferences came almost exclusively from Greece which attempted to stop our delegation from presenting its case effectively at both the OSCE Human Dimension Conferences (HDC) in both Copenhagen in 1990 and Moscow in 1991. In Copenhagen the deputy head of the official Greek delegation was caught red-handed by the people at the NGO literature desk removing large quantities of our Macedonian delegation’s brochure with a view to disposing of them. The Greek delegation was officially requested to desist from such action by the supervisor of the NGO desk. On the following day the Head of the Greek delegation officially requested from the HDC Secretariat the removal of the NGO Information stand. His request was denied. The Greeks then asked for our use of this facility to be suspended. The Head of HDC security confirmed to us that the Greeks had protested about our use of the facility. After a brief investigation the Greek “request” was denied. Danish and international media were made aware by us of the Greek attempts at hinder our participation and we held a press conference at which we severely embarrassed the Greek delegation for its blatant attempt at censorship at a major human rights conference.

In Moscow in October 1991, a Russian photographer followed members of the Macedonian NGO delegation around the conference centre and took photos of them at very close range, so close that the camera lens was nearly touching out faces. We did not observe him or any other photographer taking such photos of other NGO delegations at the conference. We confronted him and asked whether he had been hired by the Greeks to photograph us. He replied that he was an independent photographer and had not been hired by anyone. We also asked the Head of the official Greek delegation whether he had been engaged by them, to which he replied that he did not know what we were talking about. Given the conduct of the official Greek delegation in Copenhagen and the embarrassment that it suffered due to its clumsy attempt at censorship and the inadequate response of the head of the Greek delegation in Moscow to our enquiry, we concluded that this was in all likelihood another attempt by the official Greek delegates to intimidate our delegation.

There was no such open interference from the official Bulgarian delegations to these conferences. However in our meetings with the Bulgarian delegations in both Copenhagen and Moscow, it was made abundantly clear that Bulgaria did not and would not recognise the existence of a distinct Macedonian ethnicity within Bulgaria or throughout the Balkan region. Likewise, in Copenhagen the official Greek delegation made clear its position that a Macedonian minority did not exist in Greece and that our demands for “rights” for the “artificial Macedonian nation” dovetail with Skopje’s plans for the annexation of Aegean Macedonia. In Moscow, the Greek delegation refused to meet with us and was only willing to accept written material from our delegation. The official Greek and Bulgarian positions regarding the Macedonian minorities in their respective countries have not changed to this day.

At none of these conferences was there any interference from the official Yugoslav delegation. In fact in Copenhagen, they sponsored our press conference and assisted us in arranging meetings with relevant officials, official national delegations etc.

3. You worked alongside such leading Macedonian political and media figures as Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov, Canadian-Macedonian businessman and lobbyist John Bitove, journalist Saso Ordanoski and theatre director Vladimir Milcin in the early 1990s via the Ilinden Foundation. 

You hosted Milcin in Melbourne, Australia during a visit. It was a very different political environment back then within the Australian-Macedonian community. You had a kind of “consensus” between VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM supporters. That consensus has now disappeared in Australia. Why is that? The community is divided.

Dr Popov: In the early 1990s, the euphoria associated with Macedonia attaining its independence led people on both sides of the political divide to collaborate in the interests of strengthening and deepening Macedonia’s statehood. However, with the passage of time narrow political interests and the desire to retain power in order to reap concrete political and economic rewards has taken precedence over what should be considered non- negotiable national goals and interests (such as defence of Macedonia’s name, territorial integrity, economic and social development) and led to open political warfare and a hardening of attitudes towards one’s political opponents. This enmity is reflected in Macedonian Diaspora communities, although it must be said that the supporters of SDSM  have very little support or organisational capacity in Australia and the Macedonian Diaspora as a whole.

4. The current crop of “human rights activists” in the Republic of Macedonia seem to have some puzzling or confusing or contradictory views - for instance they confuse Belgrade urban Serb culture or former Yugoslavist culture with internationalism, but with a slight Western veneer on top for public consumption. For instance, Human rights boss Mirjana Najcevska defends an ultra Serb nationalist priest in Macedonia, Zoran Vraniskovski, and pundit Borjan Jovanovski calls ultra nationalist Serb journalists as “respected colleague (poshtovane kolega)” and journalist Sinisa Jakov-Marusic has a deliberately provocative Serbian quote from the founder of Serbian nationalism Dositej Obradovic as his profile picture on Facebook.

Many of these people who now claim to be human rights activists were no where to be seen back in the 1980s. Some of their views such as the Yugoslavist nostalgia are authoritarian such as the one party state that existed in Tito’s Yugoslavia. Why do you think that is? 

Dr Popov: In the interests of fairness it must be stated that the human rights activism in the Republic of Macedonia in the late 1980s and early 1990s was a very new phenomenon and did not have a strong organizational or financial basis. It has become more prominent from 2000 onwards with the influx of funds from the EU and the Soros foundation in support of such activism. While those involved with Soros-funded organizations have stirred up much controversy in recent years and tended to take partisan political pro-SDS positions, this is not to say that the concerns they have raised about violations of human rights in Macedonia are not valid or have no basis. There is a serious democratic deficit in Macedonia which has to be addressed by all political actors if the country is to move forward and achieve social and economic progress. However their defence of people such as Vraniskovski who openly denies the Macedonian Orthodox Church’s right to exist as a separate autocephalous church and Macedonian ethnicity is strange indeed to say the least. Apart from certain organisations representing Macedonian refugees from Greece, such as the Association of Macedonians from the Aegean Part of Macedonia in Bitola, these human rights bodies devote precious little time to highlighting the plight of the Macedonian minorities in Greece, Bulgaria and Albania, a task which is taken up almost exclusively by bodies such as the AMHRC and the MHRMI in Canada. For the human rights movement in Macedonia to be truly effective it must rid itself of the increasingly partisan political position it has taken against the government (which, however can legitimately be criticized for its corruption, venality and lip service to democratic norms and procedures) and adopt positions which reflect genuine public aspirations for political reform and defence of the public good.

 5. Do you think it strange that neither the [now outgoing] Macedonian government or opposition, including human rights activists condemned the 14 May 2015 decision by the Serbian High Court to officially rehabilitate ultra Serb nationalist leader Draza Mihailovic who was anti Macedonian. Why does Serb cultural hegemony get a free pass in Macedonia?

Dr Popov: I do not accept the premise that Serbian cultural hegemony gets a free pass in Macedonia, despite the popularity of Serbian music, folk and pop artists and culture in general with the populace in general to the detriment of indigenous Macedonian culture and artistic achievement. The reluctance to criticise the rehabilitation of Draza Mihajlovic, who was a Greater Serbian nationalist who saw Macedonians as merely “Southern Serbs”, reflects rather a desire not to meddle in Serbian internal affairs in a geopolitical situation in which Macedonia- a small, weak state, faced with internal destabilisation- does not have good relations with Greece, Bulgaria and Albania and Kosovo. While there are problems in the relationship with Serbia, Macedonian leaders probably view Serbia as the “lesser regional evil”- given that the Macedonia minority there has some form of official recognition and government funding for Macedonian language classes and culture- which it needs to cooperate with in the struggle against Albanian expansionism.

6. Likewise, many current Macedonian “patriots” were no where to be seen in the 1980s. Why do you think that is?

Dr Popov: It was difficult to be a “Macedonian patriot” in the 1980s, given the then prevailing one-party system in Macedonia which was still formally part of the Yugoslav Federation. Patriotism is a term which is very easily bandied and used for nefarious political purposes, however I do not see much evidence of it amongst the political elite in Macedonia which continues to negotiate Macedonia’s name and collaborate with extremist Albanian elements in order to hold on to political power. True patriotism in Macedonia would focus on a stout defence of Macedonia’s name, a refusal to countenance the de facto federalisation of the country which has steadily taken place and a resolute struggle against corruption, nepotism and the violation of human rights, all the while respecting the rights of ethnic, social and cultural  minorities.

7. You’re a man of the Left and not an alleged rabid nationalist of any kind but you see the need to defend Macedonian national identity and the name. Why is that? 

Dr Popov: Defence of Macedonia’s name, culture and identity is not incompatible with fighting for progressive political, economic and social policies.  It was the primary factor motivating the struggle for Macedonian statehood which began in the late 1800s. However, the struggle to defend Macedonia’s name and national identity which has been under sustained, intense attack for especially the last 25 years should not be done in a way which excludes Macedonia’s ethnic minorities or be understood as positing the primacy of the ethnic Macedonian nation over those non-ethnic Macedonian citizens. Any name change would not only spell the beginning of the end for Macedonian ethnicity and nationhood, but would also give impetus to those forces which seek to territorially dismember the Macedonian state, by creating the perception that if Macedonia is not the nation state of the Macedonians and its minorities together, then it must historically and currently belong to one or some of its neighbouring states, which in the main continually deny Macedonian ethnicity and identity. Those within the Republic of Macedonia and Europe who advocate a name change in the interests of “Euroatlantic Integration’ would not dream of proposing a similar name change of any other nation such as France, Germany , Italy etc and then portray a refusal to do so as a sign of “ nationalist intransigence”. It seems that Macedonia is viewed by these circles as an “experimental guinea pig” and a “lesser nation’ (vis-a vis the so-called “historical” or “superior” nations) whose inherent rights to identity, language and culture can be bargained away for some unspecified, illusory political and economic gain.

8. Why is that Macedonian Human rights activists remain largely silent on the rights of Macedonians in Greece, Bulgaria and Albania?

Dr Popov: The reason for their silence on this issue is that many of them have become too politically partisan and focussed on the struggle for power within the Republic of Macedonia to the detriment of wider, important issues such as this. Another reason is that when Macedonia was part of Yugoslavia, a deliberate attempt was made to foster a Yugoslav identity which downplayed the ethnic and national links between Macedonians in the Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece, Albania and Serbia. The legacy of such policies lingers on. It is sad that many human rights organisations in the Republic of Macedonia do not realise that one of the best defences against attempts to change Macedonia’s name is the defence of Macedonia human rights in the neighbouring states. Doing so would counter the “negationist" view that Macedonians are an “artificial nation” who were “created by Tito “ for purposes of advancing Yugoslav territorial designs”.

 9. Are you alarmed at the creeping Bulgarianisation of Macedonian history; the rehabilitation of controversial figures such as Todor Alexandrov?

Dr Popov: This is indeed an alarming development as it gives credence to the perception that Macedonians are in reality “ Western Bulgarians “ who have been “ Serbianised” or “lost their way”, in the words of Bulgarian nationalist discourse and are now discovering their “true roots”. There are circles- how many is hard to say- within the Macedonian government which hold such views and they must be resolutely opposed by reasoned, factual academic research and discourse in order to prevent Macedonian identity from being undermined..

10. Are you concerned at the “tribalisation” of Macedonian politics into two warring camps: VMRO-DMPNE and SDSM? If you criticise VMRO-DPMNE you get accused of being a spy for SDSM or if you criticise SDSM you get accused of being a spy for VMRO-DPMNE. In effect, any form of party neutrality is thrown out the window.

Dr Popov: I have alluded to this in some of my answers above. It is a very worrying development and harks back to the period during which Macedonia formed part of the Yugoslav Communist Federation and when sustained criticism of the ruling party- until at least the  late 1980s- was equated with anti-state and anti-communist activity. It has led to an increasing identification of the Macedonian state with the political interests of whichever party is in power and the equation of national interests with those of the ruling or governing party. While it is natural that each government would seek to implement the policies on which it has been elected, it is imperative for the effective functioning of the state that party political goals are put aside in order that collaboration take place for the achievement of vital national, security and economic goals. The “winner takes all” approach in Macedonian politics does not enable capable bureaucrats, policy makers and experts of whatever political persuasion to contribute their skills and talents to national development and social progress.

11. What are your thoughts of the nasty name calling and divisive use of the term “egejizacija” as a pejorative? Opponents of Macedonia’s [now outgoing] Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski have used this term as an attack on him. In a democracy criticising any politician, including Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, should be encouraged but is it fair to tar a whole group with the same brush over one individual? For instance would you use the racist term “Africanisation” to target an Afro-American politician, senator, president etc.? On the subject of stereotyping, why is it that Macedonia’s cultural elite, both on the Left and Right can’t relate to Macedonians outside the capital city, Skopje?

For instance, ex Interior Minister (VMRO-DPMNE) Gordana Jankulovska’s patronising comments about ethnic Macedonians in Mala Prespa, Albania and SDSM aligned journalist Olivera Trajkovska’s disparaging comments about Opposition leader (SDSM) Zoran Zaev’s provincial city background.

Dr Popov: The use of this patronising term “Egejizacija” indicates that those who use it either do not see Macedonians whose roots are from the Aegean part of Macedonia as Macedonians or see them as a lesser form of Macedonian.  It is unnecessarily divisive, discriminatory and a hangover from Yugoslav times when the federal authorities gave precedence to the creation of a primary Yugoslav identity over Macedonian, Serbian, Croatian etc identities. There are enough political and social divisions between Macedonians in the Republic of Macedonia without the need for a further layer of disunity based on place of origin within the wider Macedonian ethnographic region.

The political elite in Macedonia tends to see Skopje as the centre of their universe as evidenced by the Skopje 2014 project and other major political, cultural economic and social developments which tend to be concentrated in the capital city. Voters in regions outside of Skopje often complain that politicians, MPs and government ministers only visit them at election time in search of their vote and then forget about them until the next electoral cycle. Paying greater attention to the needs and aspirations of inhabitants of regions outside of Skopje would not only deliver much needed investment and jobs to these areas, but also help in addressing the increasingly serious brain drain which is severely hampering Macedonia, economically and demographically.

12. Your thoughts on the [now outgoing] Macedonian government and Opposition, including the Albanian nationalist bloc?

Dr Popov: Both the Macedonian government and the opposition SDSM have shown themselves to be incapable of solving the myriad problems faced by Macedonia during their periods in power, although in saying this I am aware of the difficult position Macedonia finds itself it both regionally and internationally. Ever since independence political life in Macedonia has been mired in corruption, clientelism, vote-rigging and nepotism to the detriment of the voters and the wider population. The current political crisis is the result of the increasing dissatisfaction of Macedonians in general at the corruption, authoritarian tendencies and lack of economic opportunity which has marked the Gruevski government’s time in power, but also importantly that of its main rivals, the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia. The SDSM, which appears to have the backing of the EU, USA, has used the crisis sparked by the release of Zaev’s “bombs” to make an attempt to grab power by bringing about early elections as per the Przino Agreement, however despite the strong international support it is receiving, it seems unlikely to achieve its goal if elections are held in April 24, due to VMRO-DPMNE’s control of the bureaucracy and the support it receives from regions outside Skopje.

However, ultimately, unless a thorough democratisation and deep-seated reform takes places within both VMRO-DPMNE and the SDSM, neither of these parties will be able to effectively tackle the deep-seated economic, political, social and security problems faced by the country in the coming years. A new progressive political option led by persons untainted by corruption and who have Macedonia’s national interests at heart is needed, however it is unlikely that such a viable option will emerge in the short term given the political culture which permeates Macedonian society. A change in the mentality of the general population, which appears in the main to grudgingly accept a political culture marked by corruption, nepotism and vote- rigging, is needed so that sustained pressure can be applied to the political class to govern responsibly.


Dr Popov: The ethnic Albanian political parties in Macedonia have been the big winners since Macedonia declared independence. Nearly every government formed since independence has built a coalition with one or other of the existing ethnic Albanian parties, despite there being no constitutional obligation or electoral imperative to do so. This occurred initially in order to foster a feeling in the ethnic Albanian minority that they had a stake in the country, however in the last 15 years it has been done due to international pressure, the Ohrid agreement which ended the brief ethnic Albanian armed rebellion in 2001 and because of the mutual enmity which exists between VMRO-DPMNE and the SDSM which has prevented them from forming coalitions which do not include the ethnic Albanian parties. Participation in such governments has provided Albanian parties, especially the current DUI and DPA, with great political leverage to implement and advance an agenda viewed by many Macedonians as, at best, aimed at achieving a confederal, bi-national Macedonia or at worst a secession of Western Macedonia and parts of Skopje and Kumanovo as the precursor to the creation of a Greater Albania. The insistence of both of these parties on the ethnic Albanian minority being constitutionally proclaimed a “constituent nation” of the Republic of Macedonia and on the Albanian language being given official status throughout the whole of Macedonia certainly gives credence to such views.

Friday, January 08, 2016


Macedonian Lustration process - 1980 - PEN President & British author Dr Michael Scammell spied upon by Yugoslavia over Macedonian dissident Dragan Bogdanovski and Albanian dissident Adem Demaci?


by Sasha Uzunov

Dr Michael Scammell, a prominent British author and academic who as the President of PEN, the Internationalist writers union, was being spied upon by Yugoslav intelligence in 1980 over Macedonian and Albanian dissidents, according to declassified files released some time ago by Macedonia's controversial Lustration Process Commission, now shut down by the European Union. TEAM UZUNOV has recently managed to track down Dr Scammell.

Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski set up the The Lustration Commission in 2009 to uncover informers from the Yugoslavist /communist period in Macedonia (1944-91).

The Commission was criticised at the time for being used by the Gruevski government to target opponents. A western intelligence source has told TEAM UZUNOV that the many intelligence documents declassified by the Commission are genuine but many have also been tampered with or fabricated.

"It's difficult to tell what is fact and what is fiction," the source said.

Another staunch critic of Lustration is Alexander Dinevski, a former Yugoslav and later Macedonian Intelligence officer, who was released a month ago after spending two years in jail on alleged and controversial espionage charges laid by the Gruevski government. He denies his guilt and claims he was set up. There are plans to fight to overturn the conviction.

Dinevski, many years prior to his imprisonment, claimed the process was selective in choosing individuals to "lustrate" and documents open to forgery.

A TEAM UZUNOV investigation, citing declassified Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) files confirmed that a genuine ex Yugoslav intelligence operative, Martin Trenevski, was not put through the Lustration Commission but appointed Macedonia’s Ambassador to NATO (2010-14) by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. see link for story

DR SCAMMELL - specialises in Slavonic studies; is fluent in Russian, Serbian, Croatian and Slovenian. He earn his Phd from Columbia University and is the author of award wining biographies on great thinkers and writers, Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Arthur Koestler.

The Yugoslav intelligence file, written in Macedonian, relates to a 1980 PEN conference in Bled, Slovenia, then part of Yugoslavia. The file, which TEAM UZUNOV has not been able to verify its authenticity or if it is a forgery, notes concerns about the possibility of Macedonian dissident Dragan Bogdanovski and Albanian dissident Adem Demaci having their imprisonment in Yugoslav jails publicised at the PEN conference to Yugoslavia's embarrassment.

Two informers are named, one a Slovenian writer by the name of Boris Pogacnik, now passed away, who Dr Scammell did really know, and a second, a Macedonian who is still alive, who were involved in monitoring Dr Scammell. TEAM UZUNOV has decided not to publish this name for legal reasons. Putting that aside, it would have been normal procedure for Yugoslav Intelligence (UDBa later SDB) to have spied upon a prominent foreigner visiting or working on then Yugoslav soil. It stands to reason there would be a file on him, most probably in the Slovenian archives. TEAM UZUNOV has advised Dr Scammell to approach the Slovenian authorities to get access to his dossier.

Suffice to say, according to the Macedonian document the Yugoslavist authorities breathed a sigh of relief when Bogdanovski and Demaci were not mentioned.

Bogdanovski spent over a decade in a Yugoslav communist jail in Skopje, Macedonia; Demaci did over 20 years. It remains intriguing that Macedonia's Yugoslav Communist authorities were also doing Serbia's bidding over Demaci? He fell under Pristina / Belgrade jurisdiction of UDBa.

Some of these hard core Yugoslavists who came down hard on both Macedonian and Albanian dissidents have reinvented themselves as Macedonian human rights activists post 1991, after the collapse of Yugoslavia and Macedonia’s consequent independence. Likewise, some hard core Yugoslavists became “Macedonian patriots” overnight.

TEAM UZUNOV has published in full, Dr Scammell's response after he was sent a copy of the intelligence files:

"Thank you for that revealing snippet of information, which was unknown to me before, but doesn't surprise me in the least. The fact is that all the PEN centres from communist countries operated in more or less the same way, and the Yugoslav centres were no different from the Soviet-dominated ones, except that party control over their operations was looser and less predictable.

"Strictly speaking, none of these centres should have been in International PEN in the first place. They were there because (with the exception of the Russian Centre) the Soviet bloc centres had inherited the position of their pre-World War II predecessors, operating at the time within more or less democratic societies, and though they were quickly taken over by anti-democratic communists, the polite fiction was maintained that these centres continued to respect (and defend) freedom of expression. Thus among the delegations they sent to PEN's international congresses there would usually be one or two "name" writers, a couple of conformists and at least one "minder" and informer, who would report back to party headquarters.

"The situation of the Yugoslav centres wasn't much different, except for two factors. First, they not only inherited the bona fides of their pre-war predecessors, but also miraculously (and hypocritically) basked in the aura of PEN's 1933 International Congress in Bled, when the German centre was kicked out after being taken over by Hitler (and after Hitler's notorious book-burning orgy). Secondly, Yugoslavia was genuinely more flexible and liberal than the countries of the Soviet bloc by 1980, and that played a big role in the decision to hold a congress in Bled.

"It's worth noting too that there were considerable differences at the time between the Yugoslav centres themselves. By far the most liberal was the Slovenian Centre, which is another reason Bled was chosen, though even the Slovenes had their Bogdan Pogačnik. From there the degree of a centre's freedom generally shrank as you moved from north to south. The Croatian and Serbian centres were somewhat less free than Slovenia, Bosnia-Hercegovina was a lot less free, and Montenegro and Macedonia were still virtually Stalinist, which is why the Macedonians were so agitated.

"As for my own position vis-à-vis the Yugoslavs, it was rather complicated. I had graduated from Nottingham University in Russian literature, with a minor in Serbo-Croatian, and immediately afterward had spent the year 1958-59 working as a Lektor (Lecturer) in English language at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia.

"In the early-sixties I worked as a tourist guide in Dalmatia and helped write a tourist book on the region; in the mid-sixties, when I was working for the Overseas Service of the BBC, I met the Slovenian poet, Veno Taufer, there and we translated a great deal of Slovenian poetry into English; and in 1972 I founded the free-speech journal, Index on Censorship, where I regularly published information about the repression of writers in Yugoslavia (including Djilas at one point) and presented translations of some of their work. To cap it all, in 1976 I was asked to chair the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN and turned it into a highly active committee that, I'm pleased to say, was hated by both right and left-wing dictatorships all over the globe.

"As such, of course, I had to deal in even greater detail with the situation of writers in Yugoslavia and was in regular contact with dissidents from just about every republic. It was in this capacity that I learned about the plight of the Kosovar writer, Adam Demaci, who suffered not only politically, but also from the fact of writing in Albanian, which almost nobody knew. I myself didn't know Albanian either, but through my contacts at the BBC I knew a couple of Albanians living in London and was able to get information from them."

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

ATA - US State Department’s own army

By Sasha Uzunov

ATA - Office of the Antiterrorism Assistance Program is run by the United State’s State Department (it’s Foreign Ministry) and until recently when I stumbled upon this 1997 article from the Gainsville Sun in Florida, US, in a newspaper archive had no idea of its existence.

We all know of the CIA, the FBI, NSA, DEA and various other law-enforcement, espionage and para-military formations but this one, the ATA, was lunknown to me.

It was a secret counter terrorism unit set up by President Ronald Reagan in 1983 and hidden until 1987.

An article from the Gainsville Sun newspaper, 28 January 1997 - US newspaper archives

PD Knowles, American secret counter-terrorist trainer sent to Columbia, Peru & Macedonia by the US State Department’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program during the 1980s and 1990s.

He was obviously in Macedonia before the 1999 NATO war against Serbia for control of Kosovo and the 2001 ethnic Albanian uprising in Macedonia.

It is not known whether PD Knowles trained any potential Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) or its precursor elements during his stay in the Balkans.

You can read the 1997 full Gainsville Sun story at this link

The Official US State Department website:

The Office of Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA), administers the Antiterrorism Assistance Program. The ATA program trains civilian security and law enforcement personnel from friendly governments in police procedures that deal with terrorism. DS officers work with the host country's government and a team from that country's U.S. mission to develop the most effective means of training for bomb detection, crime scene investigation, airport and building security, maritime protections, and VIP protection.

DS assesses the training needs, develops the curriculum, and provides the resources to conduct the training. The bureau uses its own training experts as well as those from other U.S. federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, police associations, and private security firms and consultants.

Most ATA program recipients are developing nations lacking human and other resources needed to maintain an effective antiterrorism program and infrastructure. ATA training seeks to address deficiencies noted in the ability to perform the following areas:

Protecting national borders
Protecting critical infrastructure
Protecting national leadership
Responding to and resolving terrorist incidents
Managing critical terrorists incidents having national-level implications

Since its inception in 1983, the program has trained and assisted over 84,000 foreign security and law enforcement officials from 154 countries. These foreign security and law enforcement personnel have received training in bomb detection, crime scene investigations, airport and building security, maritime security, dignitary protection, and numerous other disciplines to increase their counterterrorism capabilities and capacity. These officials are now better prepared to fight terrorism and protect Americans overseas in times of crisis. DS has received numerous stories from foreign police officers who have used their ATA training successfully to counter terrorist situations in their countries.

Marc A Celmer takes a critical look at the ATA in his book. He points out that there is an ulterior motive in setting up the ATA.  link here

The Los Angeles Times newspaper ran a 1987 story about PC Knowles and the ATA:

U.S. Wins a Few : Upping the Stakes on Terrorism -
October 11, 1987 by DAVID LAMB

"WASHINGTON — In basement offices where a hand-lettered sign says "The Bullet Stops Here" and conference rooms where government lawyers gather, in California think tanks and training facilities from Oklahoma to Georgia, the United States is shaping the course of its undeclared war on international terrorism.

"It is a shadowy war that perhaps no one can win. Advances are measured in inches and may not last. The ammunition is often only snippets of intelligence or pleas for international cooperation, and the soldiers are as often lawyers and bureaucrats as undercover agents or counter terrorism squads awaiting secret deployment orders at U.S. military bases.

"Disarming a Terrorist

"One anti-terrorism instructor, P. C. Knowles, a deputy sheriff from Alachua County, Florida, stood the other day among a group of 30 Bolivian policemen and security officers at one of those facilities, a Transportation Department complex in Oklahoma City. One of the Bolivians held a simulated pistol at Knowles' back and the others crowded around attentively.

"First thing to know is where the weapon is," Knowles said, his head turning toward the assailant. "You have to look. Now, from this position, it's hopeless . . . but from here," and his feet spun, his arm swung back and in a flash he had the gun and his student had been flipped gently onto the canvas mat, "from here, it's easy."

"These efforts may represent only a footnote in a larger campaign, but CIA statistics indicate that they are paying dividends. They also imply that the Reagan Administration's sale of arms to Iran--which the State Department lists along with Syria, South Yemen, Libya and Cuba as a state sponsor of political violence--may not have been as harmful to U.S. interests as many had believed.” link to full story

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Photos: Aleksander Dinevski (above). Ljubomir Frckoski (below right).


The unusual choice for “human rights activist” - Ljubomir Danailov Frckoski.

It’s a puzzling selection by the Helsinki Committee for Macedonia - link - to have on board an ex politician, ex Interior Minister who ordered extensive wiretapping and wrongfully dismissed an intelligence officer in the early 1990s

- Former Macedonian Intelligence Officer, Alexander Dinevski, is no stranger to controversy.

THE JORDAN MIJALKOV MYSTERY DEEPENS - Why did Macedonia's Interior Minister Frckoski order intelligence officer's arrest in 1992?

by Sasha Uzunov

Professor Doctor Ljubomir Danailov Frckoski, who in recent times has cultivated the image of a mild mannered public intellectual who critiques mock baroque statues, had a more ruthless side to his stage personna as Macedonia's Interior Minister, ordering the arrest of a highly respected counter-intelligence officer and seizing documents relating to his successor Jordan Mijalkov (father of Saso Mijalkov, Macedonian Intelligence chief forced to resign in 2015 during anti government protests ironically over government wiretapping) killed in a mysterious car crash in Serbia in late 1991.


Alexander (Aleksandar) "Aco" Dinevski , an officer with the Interior Ministry's SDB (Sluzba za Drzavna Bezbednost - State Security Service) was arrested on the 13 July 1992 whilst on annual summer vacation in his father's village of Brajcino, in the Lake Prespa region of Macedonia. The order had come from Interior Minister Frckoski over claims that Dinevski had been leaking secrets.

The Interior Ministry runs the police force and intelligence services.

Dinevski, flanked by SDB officers, was then driven back to Skopje, the capital of Macedonia and made to hand over his work files from his office safe as well as having his flat (apartment) in Skopje searched and private documents and books seized, including material relating to Mijalkov.

He later was released from custody and began court proceedings against Minister Frckoski over wrongful dismissal. In 1993 during my time as a reporter with the MILS news agency in Skopje I met Dinevski and attended his court trial on 18 March 1993. His lawyer being the well known attorney Rafael Cerepnalkovski-Rafe, later to become a Supreme Court judge. The matter was eventually settled and Dinevski compensated.

Dinevski is no stranger to controversy. As a young reformist intelligence officer, he together with seven other colleagues, known as The Eight (Osumminata na RSVR), including Slobodan Bogoevski (now at the centre of a recent US investigation into a bribery scandal involving the sale of Macedonia’s telecommunications network to Magyar Telekom in 2005-06. see link ), began pushing for reforms in Macedonia's interitor ministry then under Federal Communist Yugoslav control. His group also exposed corruption and abuse of power by Macedonia's communist ruling elite, namely Lazar Kolisevski, a close collaborater with Yugoslav ruler Marshal Tito.

In 1991 Macedonia became independent after leaving the collapsing Federal Yugoslavia, caused in most part in Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic’s attempts to set up a Greater Serbia - see link

Recently Dinevski was released after spending two years in jail on alleged and controverisal espionage charges laid by Macedonia's government led by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. see link. He denies his guilt and claims he was set up. There are plans to fight to overturn the conviction.

Dinevski was a staunch critic of the Gruevski government’s Lustration Commission, set up to reveal ex intelligence informers from the Yugoslavist period of Macedonia (1944-91), claiming the process was selective and documents open to tampering.

read on: link

A TEAM UZUNOV investigation, citing declassified Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) files confirmed that a genuine ex Yugoslav intelligence operative, Martin Trenevski, was not put through the Lustration Commission but appointed Macedonia’s Ambassador to NATO (2010-14) by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

read on: link
UPDATE - 2 February 2016 - Dinevski has lodged an appeal with Macedonia’s Court of Appeals to have his conviction overturned. It has been deferred til the end of February 2016. This post from Dinevski in Macedonian on Facebook, revealing that both pro-government and opposition media stayed away from the initial court hearing, with only one journalist turning up.

More on Martin Trenevski:

VANKOVSKA versus TRENEVSKI - Albright's legendary rudeness !

Scrutinising Macedonia's Foreign Policy - Vankovska versus Trenevski at NATO (2010-14).

Some of Macedonia's "foreign relations experts" seem to have kooky ideas on the importance of alliances etc. You'll notice that a lot of energy has been expended in critiquing Macedonia's relationship with Israel and Hungary but the blow-torch of scrutiny doesn't apply to say Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and even Kosovo.

An example of the weak and hilarious scrutiny of Macedonian Foreign policy is the attempted very soft takedown of Macedonia's Ambassador to NATO, Martin Trenevski by "intellectual" Professor Doctor Biljana Vankovska. In effect, she turned Trenevski into a kind of anti-NATO hero.

It's more like tickling Trenevski with a feather rather than tearing him apart. Water off a ducks back so to speak. Metaphorically speaking, It’s like going after a bank robber for parking in a disabled car par spot but ignoring the glaring fact he has just robbed a bank...

In essence her criticism is aimed at his rude behaviour. France's President Charles De Gaulle built a whole post war political career on being rude to NATO, culminating in France's withdrawal from the alliance in 1966.

Even Macedonian pundit Borjan Jovanovski, who claims to be pro-NATO, has been “rude” to NATO on many occasions, as in defending the regime in Serbia, which is anti-NATO, as well as attacking NATO and EU member Hungary.

Vankovska, who claims to be a miltary and geo-political strategist with extensive contacts, goes after Trenevski over his "rudeness" but misses or ignores the real scandal, that Trenevski was a one time intelligence operative for YUGOSLAVIA under journalist cover. With the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991, the federal intelligence services (UDBa/SDB and KOS and SID) aparatus were taken over by Slobodan Milosevic's Serbian regime. The breakaway republics, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia kept their republican UDBas.

You'd think that she would have at least tried to dig up some real dirt on Trenevski by asking around. There are retired intelligence agents Vladimir Pivovarov or Ivan Babanovski she could have asked. But it appears that anything linked to the former Yugoslavia or current day Serbia is ignored.

Surely, if someone worked for Yugoslav state run newsagency TANJUG as an overseas correspondent as did Trenevski in Australia (1986-89), it would have raised alarm bells in Vankovska's head as an "expert?"

It's common knowledge that Soviet, Yugoslav, East German etc journalists working overseas during the Cold War (1946-89) where intelligence operatives. Surely, this would have aroused some intellectual curiousity in Vankovska?

Intelligence agents never really retire, so goes the story. Hypothetically speaking, how do we know someone so opposed to NATO might be doing so because he or she has been ordered by say Belgrade and not out of rudeness?

TEAM UZUNOV applied for the AUSTRALIAN Security Intelligence Organistion (ASIO) file on Trenevski during his stay in Australia (1986-89). Very easy process, only that it takes time waiting. The file confirms Trenevski was a high level intelligence officer reporting directly to Belgrade outside the normal diplomatic chain of command in the Yugoslav Embassy in Canberra. We did this because our curiousity was aroused because of the TANJUG connection.
See stories for more at these links:

Here and Here

She could have taken Trenevski and Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski apart over Trenevski's appointment to the sensitive position to NATO and for not going through the government's much criticised Lustration Commission.

Instead Vankovska attacked Trenevski for being rude to NATO.

An analogy would be criticising a bank robber for placing his get away car in a reserved Disabled Car Parking Spot or a Parents with Prams parking zone in the nearby shopping centre whilst robbing a bank, but not criticising him robbing a bank. Hilarious !

Ex US Foreign Minister (Secretary of State) and ex US Ambassador to the UN and the architect of the NATO war in Kosovo in 1999, Madeleine Albright, used rudeness and being pushy as her part of her shtick !

Vankovska quote in Macedonian from Utrinski Vesnik newspaper about Trenevski’s rudeness:

„Паднав од смеа. Мислев дека сум јас најанти-НАТО во Македонија“, беше реакцијата на професорката Билјана Ванковска вчера околу презентацијата на новиот амбасадор на Македонија во Алијансата, Мартин Треневски. „Едно е да имаш личен став, или научен, но дипломат е дипломат зашто внимава што зборува. Ме изненади неумешноста со која ги кажуваше нештата и мислам дека досега немало понедипломатски настап на кандидат за амбасадор на Македонија“, оцени таа.

Дипломати со контакти во НАТО оваа слика за Треневски ја сметаат за олеснителна околност за Македонија, иако звучи парадоксално. Сега барем ќе знаат со сигурност со кого си имаат работа, па нема да го прашуваат за мислење и нема да го земаат за сериозно, порачуваат тие.

Utrinski Vesnik article - 2010. Link here 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

(ROAD) SIGN OF THE TIMES - Serbia’s rocky relationship with Macedonia

Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic (on the left) shakes hands with Macedonia’s Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

(ROAD) SIGN OF THE TIMES - Serbia’s rocky relationship with Macedonia
By Sasha Uzunov 

The haughty and paradoxical behaviour of Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has not been hard to miss over Belgrade’s confected outrage when Macedonia did not obey Serbia, which is rare anyway, and recently supported Kosovo’s, as it turns out failed, UNESCO application.

As you might be aware Serbia refuses to recognise the independence of its break away province of Kosovo, predominately Albanian. So when Macedonia supported Kosovo’s UNESCO bid, in retaliation a road sign inside Serbia had referred to Macedonia by the controversial- and offensive to Macedonians- FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). Serbia recognises Macedonia under its constitutional name of The Republic of Macedonia.

A quote from Serbian news website B92 - Link: 

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has said he "sees no reason for Skopje's complaint" over a highway sign on Corridor 10 in Serbia that reads, "FYROM."
FYROM (Serbian: BJRM) is the acronym for "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" - the name under which the country has been admitted to the UN. Its constitutional name, and one under which Serbia recognized it, is "Republic of Macedonia."
"They mind the sign, whereas we should not mind that they voted in favor of Kosovo's admission to UNESCO," Dacic asked.
The minister added that "our ambassador in Skopje presented the same arguments during a meeting in their Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where she was delivered an oral demarche over to the sign," Belgrade-based daily Vecernje Novosti is reporting.
Skopje has based its protest on the fact Serbia recognizes it as "Republic of Macedonia," asking that the sign, listing the details of the construction site that is currently the Vladicin Han- Donji Neradovac section of the road, be urgently removed.
But Dacic was adamant that the sign will remain where it is, saying:
"It is about time we stopped working against our own interests. It's true Serbia recognized Macedonia under that name, unlike (other) European states, but that was done under (Slobodan) Milosevic, in the 1990s. While Macedonia has recognized Kosovo and is now bothered by some sign. It's incomprehensible that Indonesia is a bigger friend to us than a neighboring state."
Macedonia was among 92 UNESCO members who in early November supported Pristina's failed bid to join the organization.
Dacic said at the time Belgrade was "disappointed, but not surprised" by its neighbors' behavior, and stressed their move was "deeply contrary to our national interests."
It is hypocritical and pure diplomatic theatre by Dacic, of course, because Serbia, is an ally of the United Arab Emirates, which funded "charity" organisations, read Kosovo Liberation Army, (KLA) in Kosovo and supported the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia, and has now invested heavily in the Serbian arms industry.  see link 

But even when Macedonia does "disobey” Belgrade on this very rare occasion look at the petty reaction. It's a form of blackmail, political bullying.
It is OK for Belgrade under ultra nationalists and indicted war criminals Vojislav Seselj and Slobodan Milosevic, until Milosevic slightly modified his behaviour from wielding the stick to dangling the carrot in the form of recognising Macedonia, to have threatened Macedonia's very existence and plundered its army barracks of weapons and equipment during the Yugoslav Army's withdrawal in the early 1990s, way, way before Macedonia under intense political heat from the West and its internal ethnic Albanian political bloc recognised the independence of Kosovo in 2008.

One of the reasons why Macedonia in 1999 allowed NATO to operate on its soil against Serbian control of Kosovo was a genuine fear engendered by the Milosevic regime in 1994 - see link 

There is no attempt to whitewash NATO intervention in Kosovo - we all know that two wrongs don’t make a right. A Greater Albania is a genuine fear that haunts Macedonia. The 2001 ethnic Albanian uprising in Macedonia was a consequence of the Kosovo war of 1999. It was a strange kind of gratitude by NATO to let loose the KLA in Macedonia in 2001. see link.  But it is insulting to believe that Milosevic did not have hostile intentions towards Macedonia before 1999.

When Macedonia recognised Kosovo in 2008, Serbia in retaliation cut off ties with Macedonia. It was only when Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski had to go grovelling and running like a scolded "naughty child" to "mummy" in Belgrade in 2009 that ties were re established. (See the Wikileaks document - link ).
It's OK for Belgrade to have strong-armed the Macedonian government in 2012 to allow Serbia on Macedonian soil at Zebrnjak, Kumanovo to commemorate the centenary of its 1912 conquest of Macedonia and subsequent colonial rule until 1941, which is like Poland allowing Germany to "celebrate" Berlin's invasion and partition of Poland in September 1939 - so Macedonians in 2012 had to “smile” and cop it on the chin and tolerate the insulting ceremony. see link 
Then there is the Serbian state, nominally secular, which funds a rebel pro Serb nationalist Priest Zoran Vraniskovski to destabalise Macedonia and the disengenious and "unofficial" use of the Serbian Orthodox Church to deny the existence of Macedonians. see link  
Then there is the 2014 agreement between Serbia and Macedonia for sharing joint diplomatic missions abroad, which Belgrade wanted and was given.
In the same year floods ravaged Serbia and Macedonia was quick to provide humanitarian aid from its tiny budget. 
In May 2015 the Serbian High Court officially rehabilitated a controversial Word War II leader Draza Mihailovic, whose followers murdered thousands of innocent people, and whose ideology was anti Macedonian. The Macedonian government of Prime Minister Gruevski and the opposition led by Zoran Zaev did nothing nor said anything in response when it should have in case of rousing Belgrade’s displeasure.
The hypocrisy stinks to high heaven from Belgrade and funnily enough there has been silence from some of Macedonia's human rights activists who at the drop of a hat call for demonstrations against Hungary over its wall to keep refugees out but not Belgrade nor Sofia for that matter.
This is a good wake up call for Macedonia and its foreign policy and the need to strengthen ties with Croatia and Slovenia as a balance to Belgrade.
And a wake up call for those who claim to be Macedonian patriots but naively believe Serbia's good intentions in protecting Macedonia from a Greater Albania.
There needs to a relationship of equals between Serbia and Macedonia; not master and servant as in previous times.
After all, Macedonia acting as a good "international citizen" has supported Kosovo's recent application to join UNESCO much to Serbia's chagrin.
Why isn't Macedonia's "in-house internationalist" Borjan Jovanovski immediately leaping to Macedonia's defence? There has been 48 hours of silence on Borjan's normally hyperactive Twitter account. That's "unusual."
It tells us so much about the "inconsistent" behaviour of some Macedonians who claim or pretend to be "internationalists" but seem to give Serbian nationalism a free pass or an alibi by deliberately remaining silent or downplaying it or offering a "fig leaf" of protest but without really meaning it… see link